The Punters Club Reunion
The Punters Club is widely recognized as one of the best music venues to have existed in Melbourne. Coming into being back in 1987 (when the Moonee Valley Hotel was taken over), it was given its moniker and refurbished to serve as a live music hub on Brunswick Street. It was the heart of music in Fitzroy, famous for its grungy vibe, bare floorboards and raw live performances, with the venue helping launch the careers of countless bands, including Frente!, Magic Dirt, Something For Kate, Spiderbait and You Am I. As Brunswick Street started to gentrify, it remained one of the last grimy stalwarts on the street before finally succumbing to the higher rent on a new lease. In 2002, The Punters Club closed for the last time after a 12 hour music marathon, and the site became Bimbo Deluxe pizza bar.
It was an incredible place, home to a musical scene that is remembered fondly by people who were not even there. The Punters Club had a rare synergy between bands and the scene surrounding them. Likeminded people clustered around the music, with labels, A&Rs, staff and fans all contributing towards making great music. The Punters was part of a golden era of Australian music, and a group of people who made it special back then are resurrecting it for two special Punters Club Reunion Shows, which will raise money for charity, and will be held at the Corner Hotel.
Craig Kamber, a long time music industry player who has worked in artist management, radio, music journalism and as a record company executive, remembers a venue that had a lot to offer Melbourne music. Kamber used to work with and hang out at The Punters Club, seeing and developing bands, and was instrumental in producing these reunion shows. “I decided early in 2010 that I want to produce a project every year that raises funds for worthy causes,” he explains. “Like many others, I have fond memories of The Punters Club – especially the great community spirit and camaraderie.”
Kamber came up with an idea to temporarily bring back The Punters Club, with bands who played on the original stage returning – in some cases reforming – as well as brining back members of the original staff and security. He pitched the idea around, and people started climbing on board. “It has been great to see the enthusiasm for shows in different areas grow and snowball since then. The Punters Club was important to the Melbourne music community on many levels. Especially when you look back and consider at the time; especially pre-internet / social networking, it was where connections were made with like minded souls and great long lasting friendships were forged,” Kamber muses.
“Also it was where a lot of acts played in their formative years – including bands such as The Cruel Sea, Powderfinger, Frente!, The Fauves, Underground Lovers, Magic Dirt, Spiderbait – the list is endless. A lot of acts launched their debut or early releases – such as The Avalanches with their debut 7” Rock City on the great label Trifekta Records. I love that a diverse group of people came together through a love of music and could inspire each other, share ideas for great projects, or simply share the experience of seeing some incredible music from local and international acts.”
Kamber urges punters to come down to the shows which celebrate a venue that was an instrumental part of forging Melbourne’s musical identity. He talks fondly about the sense of community that grew around the venue, and the creative forces that came out of it. Some of the most influential bands in Australia owe their formative years to The Punters Club, and to the creative milieu around it, which is sadly lacking in the modern day.
“There has been a lot of enthusiasm from many quarters – which reflects why people felt such a strong connection to the venue.”
It’s also a great opportunity to simply celebrate a fantastic chapter of Melbourne music. “If you didn’t get to go to The Punters Club and you’ve ever been curious to check any of these acts out,” Kamber argues, “you would be crazy to pass up this opportunity. Or if you did get to go to The Punters Club – then come along – I’m sure you’ll be surprised at how many old friends you’ll bump into. Plus you’ll be supporting a number of worthy causes.”
THE PUNTER CLUB REUNION shows take place at The Corner Hotel this Saturday November 27 – with Spiderbait, Hoss, Little Ugly Girls, Guttersnipes, Kim Salmon, Tirany, Spencer P Jones – and Sunday November 28 (matinee show with Frente, The Fauves, The Hollowmen, Kirsty Stegwazi, The Glory Box, and Ron Peno). All money raised goes to the Dean Turner Trust, The Leukaemia Foundation and the Linda Gebar Daughters Trust. Get along and support this great era of Melbourne music, while helping out charities that directly support Melbourne musicians. Tickets from The Corner Box Office, 9427 9198 or cornerhotel.com.